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Italy: Land of the rich Russian

Wealthy Muscovites and their countrymen are snapping up luxury Italian property and goods.

Russian oligarchs and real estate investors particularly seem to favor Italy. The owner of the Chelsea soccer team, Roman Abramovich, is a regular client — and partner in — one of the most exclusive resorts in Sardinia, Forte Village. The resort features about 20 restaurants and 40 hotels and enjoys total revenue of 75 billion euros. Abramovich each year holds the Chelsea Soccer School, a summer camp where young professionals from the famous English team train to become junior Beckhams and Ronaldinhos.

Roman is a regular in the island region, often touring the exclusive shopping areas of Porto Cervo and Porto Rotondo either on his 170-meter-long “Luna” yacht or on a jet departing from the 1,200 square-meter mansion he recently purchased at Cala di Volpe, which among other extravagant facilities features a private port.

Other high-profile Russians have followed his example, spending millions of euros for an Italian estate.

Among them is Rustam Tariko (also known as the Vodka King), Alisher Usmanov (a metal magnate and manager of Gazprom, the Russian oil giant), Vasili Anisimov (a gold producer who bought his mansion from Berlusconi’s wife, Veronica Lario) and Ildar Karimov (a television tycoon). Owning a property in one of Sardinia’s top locations is a status-symbol for Russia’s jet-set society.

Another upcoming Russian destination in Italy is Alberobello, in the Apulia region. Here, real estate investors from Moscow and St. Petersburg are spending millions of euros to buy old farms and prehistoric white, cone-shaped stone village houses called "Trulli," despite them being listed as UNESCO heritage sites.

Italian real estate agent Piero D’Amico underscored the importance of the Trulli: “They’re much more than houses, they represent a part of the local history, traditions, hospitality, scenery and culture” very much admired by Russian clients.

In the "Little Russia" of Italy, there’s even a place for spirituality: the church of Liscia di Vacca, a small town on the Emerald Coast, hosts orthodox masses celebrated by a real Russian pope.

Each morning locals are flabbergasted to see the parking place in front of the entrance crammed with Ferraris and Mercedes Benzes.

Editor's note: This article was updated to correct the name of Rustam Tariko.